West Yorkshire Mayor’s pledge sees more affordable homes built than at any time since the global financial crash

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

More affordable homes have been built in West Yorkshire over the past two years than at any other time since 2010, according to new data.

The data, published by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, also revealed that almost a quarter of all new homes built over the past year were affordable, a higher proportion than in many other regions including Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

The news comes as West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin announced plans for over 1,000 new homes in towns and cities across the region at a visit last week.

The 1,119 new homes look set to be unlocked through over £15 million of Brownfield Housing Fund investment, if approved at an upcoming meeting of the regional Place, Regeneration and Housing Committee on 29th February. They will be built in Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “Britain is in the grip of the worst housing crisis in living memory, with millions of working people struggling to afford their mortgages, rents and heating bills, and rough sleeping also on the rise.

“In West Yorkshire, we believe that every single person has a fundamental right to a safe and secure place to call home, so we’re bringing forward urgent plans to deliver hundreds of new homes across our region.

“But to build new houses on the scale that we need, Government must untether us from the inflexible, centralised rules that hold up brownfield land developments, so that we can build a brighter, more vibrant West Yorkshire that works for all.”

The new homes will benefit from a range of measures to help people spend less money on energy bills, such as solar panels and heat pumps. Over 350 are also expected to be affordable, following Mayor Brabin’s pledge to boost affordable and sustainable housing.

Announcing the new housing projects on a visit to Pontefract – where the former fire station has been successfully demolished and regenerated as 37 affordable rental apartments – Mayor Brabin launched a “regional mission” to deliver “a happy West Yorkshire, full of great places and healthy communities.”

The mission is one of five announced last year as part of the “West Yorkshire Plan” – a collaboration between the Mayor and all five district council leaders, that will see local investment targeted at boosting jobs, housing and transport, as well as achieving Net Zero and reducing crime.

“I’m delighted we’re able to bring forward plans for hundreds of new, much needed homes across West Yorkshire.

“But this is not the ceiling of our ambition – by 2040, we want to have built enough affordable, sustainable and high-quality homes for everyone in West Yorkshire.

“That means building on our historic agreement with Homes England and boosting our partnerships with housing providers, as we look to deliver a happy region that works for all.”

Cllr Denise Jeffery

Leader of Wakefield Council and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Place, Housing and Regeneration Committee

Cllr Denise Jeffery

Regional leaders hope that negotiations over a deeper devolution deal will further turbocharge housebuilding, with Mayor Brabin writing to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, calling on him to provide more local flexibility to develop on brownfield land across West Yorkshire.

Currently, the Government’s so-called “benefit cost ratio” rule allows housing projects to proceed only where the land values are relatively high, as each new project must show financial benefits that outweigh the costs. As such, it is difficult for regional leaders to back housing projects in areas where the land values are relatively low – yet where regeneration is especially needed.

A simple change to this rule, proposed by the West Yorkshire Mayor, would look at the overall financial benefit of multiple sites instead of each site on its own, opening up more housebuilding opportunities across the whole of West Yorkshire, not just in certain areas of high land value.

Andy Wallhead, Chief Executive Officer of Wakefield District Housing, said: “Newport House is a perfect example of how partnership working, and the Brownfield Housing Fund, can help provide new homes and regenerate a local area.

“We are passionate about creating better places to live. Over the past financial year, we have invested £40.5 million into improving our existing homes and to support with reducing energy bills. With the rise in cost of living, unlocking new affordable homes is key to supporting people and creating confident communities.

“We’re excited to work in partnership with Homes England and West Yorkshire Combined Authority to provide more high-quality affordable homes across Yorkshire in the future.”

Mayor Brabin also recently undertook a large scale public consultation on housing in the region, to help inform decision-making on the types of homes that are built and where.

This followed the signing of a “Strategic Place Partnership” with Homes England – the public body which funds new affordable housing in the UK – which could see 38,000 new homes built across West Yorkshire over the coming decades.

However, whilst planning permission has been successfully secured for these new homes, high inflation and the Government’s “benefit cost ratio” rule are holding back construction on many sites.

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